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Wednesday, 3 September 2008

It's Europe, stupid

About the best commentary I've found this morning on Brown's attempted intervention in the housing market is from Simon Jenkins in the Grauniad. Simon repeats the call for the government to scrap HIPs that appears elsewhere:
At the same time Gordon Brown should have cleared some of the bureaucratic clutter that now infests house purchase. Chief is the home improvement pack, a costly and redundant gimmick from a former housing minister, Yvette Cooper (now at the Treasury) eager to meddle. It has merely imposed another transaction tax on house purchase.
The fact that the energy performance certificate at the heart of the HIP is an EU and not a government requirement - blogged by EU Referendum on 1/9 - tends not to get a mention in the press.

The cost of HIPS though is a drop in the ocean compared with the total costs of EU membership; an analysis by Civitas in 2004 suggested a likely net cost of £40bn a year to the UK economy.

The costs of domestic red tape, including the 'gold plating' of EU directives, has been an increasing burden on business during Labour's tenure. Where two or three civil servants are gathered together, the first thing they do is to develop a form for someone to fill in. Regulatory costs will only be trimmed with a freeze on all non-critical public sector recruitment.

The OECD's highlighting of the UK as the only one of the G7 to face recession this year highlights the end result of a decade of Labour's economic mismanagement:



This concerns me less than other factors. The opportunity for a bit of hysteresis in the productive economy is overdue. Not having an economy locked into ECB rules gives us a bit more freedom to react to our own advantage, unlike Spain, Ireland and Denmark (ERM II), also suffering badly from a housing downturn. All we need is a Conservative government.

It is thought that late 2009 is the earliest possible date for a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon constitution treaty, but serious consideration is being given to ways in which Ireland can ratify the constitution without another referendum. Our hope still remains in holding a Cameron government to his referendum commitment before all EU states have ratified. The collapse of Brown's government and an election as soon as possible may not be Cameron's first choice, but it's certainly mine.

Our economic woes may be filling the front pages, but the real answer remains 'Europe'.

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